The Budget promises big changes for the drinks industry, the world’s first ‘sonic seasoning’ playlist is made and a cask of whisky sells for over £1.6million. It’s all in this week’s Nightcap!
Happy Halloween(ish), everyone! It’s the first one we’ve been able to celebrate properly in what feels like forever, so we hope you’ve got something fun planned, whether it’s a costume-filled party or a night in with some sweet treats. Nothing too scary. Good thing the only spirits you’ll find here are delicious and boozy. It’s The Nightcap: 29 October edition!
Those of you who are getting your Christmas lists in order will be delighted to know we launched our Christmas Gift Finder. We also let you know how to win big with Jack Daniel’s, how to enjoy Bonfire Night with some great company and fireside drams, and how to get your hands on our latest MoM exclusive: a Teaninich 11 Year Old 2010 finished in a sherry cask and bottled by James Eadie. Elsewhere on the blog, we made a kümmelised gin sour, gave you a mezcal 101, and made a case for fun drinks, while Adam looked into the story of one of the great bourbon brands and demonstrated why you absolutely can mix Islay whisky.
Rishi Sunak outlines radical overhaul of alcohol duty
In his autumn Budget announcement this week chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed a major transformation of the current “outdated” alcohol duty system, in which drinks with stronger ABVs will be taxed at higher rates. “It will help end the era of cheap, high-strength drinks which can harm public health and enable problem drinking,” Sunak said. The price of a pint in the pub was slashed by 3p, and a planned increase in duty on spirits such as Scotch whisky, wine, cider and beer was cancelled. Consumers can also expect to pay less for rosé, fruit ciders, liqueurs, lower strength beers, and wines under the new tax system. The hospitality sector even received relief in the form of a 50% business rates discount worth almost £1.7bn Scrapping the planned tax hike on spirits was a move welcomed by distillers, while The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) characterised the wine and spirits duty freeze as a “much-needed break” for British businesses. Port and Madeira, however, will be particularly hard hit, with typical bottles of 20% strength port likely to see increases of over £1 in their tax, while Nightcap legend and WSTA chief executive Miles Beale was one of many sceptical voices on the revamped alcohol duty scheme, which he said “does not make the regime fairer” – particularly for spirits. “We are mystified by a proposal that embeds unfairness between products meaning that beer will be taxed between 8p-19p per unit, wine increases to 26p per unit and spirits remains at 29p per unit,” he concluded. The new measure will not come into effect until February 2023, and with staff and energy costs rising, we can’t imagine drinkers should expect to be paying less for a pint anytime soon.
Macallan whisky cask sells for over £1.6million
If you’ve had any concerns that the whisky cask investment market has been going a bit bananas of late, then you might just wince at the results of a recent digital auction. London based brokerage firm VCL Vintners sold a Macallan ’91 whisky cask for a record-breaking £1.69million this week. The last re-gauge of the cask put the ABV at 51.1%, with 600 bottles expected to be remaining, and has been housed at the distillery since it was filled on June 3, 1991. The previous world record for a whisky cask sold at auction was another Macallan cask, which went for £416,208 in August 2021 at Bonhams Hong Kong. The cask was represented in NFT (non-fungible tokens, representations of ownership digital or physical that cannot be copied) art by Trevor Jones as proof of authenticity for the overseas buyer. The piece, titled The Angel’s Share, references the natural evaporation of the whisky. Commenting on why VCL Vintners opted for an NFT artwork to sell the cask, director Stuart Thom said it gave the new owner “a 21st century way to connect with their whisky”. He explains that, instead of a photo which is for verification purposes more than anything, “the way Trevor is using new technologies to engage fresh audiences with traditional artforms fits exactly what VCL Vintners and Metacask are wanting to achieve for the whisky investment industry”. It’s all a bit concerning, to be honest, given whisky’s history of busting pretty drastically after a big boom. Still, why learn from the past when you can make £1.6m?
Climate change report on Scotch whisky makes for grim reading
Ahead of COP 26 in Scotland, a study commissioned by Glengoyne has revealed we shouldn’t take a good dram for granted. The report from climate researchers from University College London says that projected temperature increases and changes in rainfall patterns threaten distillery production over the next fifty years, with the volume and quality of spring barley in Scotland being drastically affected. It takes 800,000 tonnes annually to support Scotch production and a reduction in yield, as seen in 2018, could cost the industry up to £27million a year. Flavour and consistency could also be affected as production methods like fermentation are developed to suit the temperate climate of the area, while warmer air and water temperatures could also lead to inefficient cooling in traditional distilleries. With projection for a decline in summer rainfall of up to 18% and a 2.0 ̊C annual rise in temperature by 2080, it’s not a pretty picture. The report is clear: planning is essential to protect our whisky. Climate change professor at UCL Mark Maslin says this needs to come from government support, investment, and infrastructure and that being in “net-zero emissions as soon as possible” is essential. Glengoyne for its part was the first Scottish distillery to adopt a wetlands facility for liquid waste in 2011, and is releasing The Wetlands Single Cask Release, as part of its collaboration with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), which also began that year. A portion of proceeds from the sale of the whisky will be given to the WWT to back its climate emergency work.
Black Bottle creates world’s first ‘sonic seasoning’ playlist
Black Bottle Whisky has teamed up with Oxford University experimental psychologist, Charles Spence to create an interesting new way to taste whisky. It’s the ‘world’s first’ collection of audio tracks that alter and heighten sensory perceptions when drinking whisky, available on AlchemySeries.co.uk to mark the launch of Black Bottle’s Limited Edition Alchemy Series. Made up of Island Smoke and Double Cask, both are non-chill filtered and bottled at 46.3% ABV, and have already scooped a ‘Master’ award at this year’s Scotch Whisky Masters. An experiment to combine ‘sonic seasoning and real-world sounds’ to change the way we taste, the collab tasked Spence to work alongside master distiller Brendan McCarron to create a collection of audio tracks specifically to alter and heighten sensory perceptions when drinking whisky. McCarron says the experience gives whisky drinkers a truly personal experience and having attended a tasting ourselves, we agree. We also learned a few things: a) The new Black Bottle Double Cask and Black Bottle Island Smoke are both outrageously good value and are very tasty; b) We know absolutely nothing about whisky; c) sonic seasoning really does work. We highly recommend you give it a try. Pour some whisky, pop the playlist on and prepare to be amazed.
Guinness is releasing its first official cookbook
Guinness has always had a long association with food, whether it’s been as a drink pairing or as an ingredient to add depth and richness. But the Irish beer brand has never launched its own official cookbook – until now. The Official Guinness Cookbook, written by Irish food and drink journalist Caroline Hennessey, is an attempt by the brand to bring the ingredient out “from under the radar” and into more of our kitchens. Hennessy, a graduate of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, has put together a host of dishes including braised short ribs, traditional Guinness soda bread, and indulgent chocolate potato cake. Along with recipes containing the beers themselves and those designed specifically to pair with the brewer’s stouts, ales, and lagers, there are also dishes lifted directly from the food menu served at Dublin Guinness Storehouse, which has been feeding visitors its famous Guinness Burger, and Guinness chocolate mousse for years. A handful of cocktail recipes incorporating Guinness are also included in a collection said to be perfect for ‘anyone who wants to bring the taste and comfort of an Irish pub home.” Containing more than 70 recipes, the Irish brand’s fully-sanctioned book has launched in the US this week, but there will be pre-orders available for a December UK release. Sounds like Guinness fans will all be getting the same Christmas present!
MoM visits the revived London Gin Club
Fans of all things juniper will be delighted to know that The London Gin Club has been brought back to life. After a two year closure, the Soho institution has returned to the historic Great Chapel Street, which housed bars as far back as 1785, so it was a no-brainer of a location for the club’s resurrectors, the London’s Inception Group. We got to visit this week and we’re quite charmed by the venue. It’s an intimate space littered with references to gin and Soho’s history and boasts an impressive back bar of over 100 gins. If you want something flavoured, something classic, or even something you won’t find anywhere else, like the missed Tanqueray Old Tom, then this is the place to be. G&Ts are an obvious staple of the menu but there’s also a 10 strong gin-based cocktail menu featuring new creations as well as long-standing classics. We tried two, a beautifully composed White House Negroni made with Bombay Sapphire gin, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, verjus and Franklin & Sons elderflower tonic water with cucumber, as well as a delightful drink called Garden Square, which paired makrut lime-infused Bombay Sapphire gin with Muyu Jasmine Verte liqueur, cloudy apple juice, lavender syrup and fresh lime juice. The drinks were delicious and it’s great to see a celebration of the spirit the capital is so associated with back in the groove. Cheers!
Johnnie Walker teams up with Netflix for new bottle
People love a good crossover these days so there will be plenty of people trying to get their hands on a new limited edition bottle design for Johnnie Walker Red Label, made in collaboration with Netflix. Inspired by the streaming service’s series Money Heist, or La Casa de Papel, which tells the story of two large-scale bank robberies, the label will mark the finale, which will premiere on Netflix on 3 December 2021. Johnnie Walker’s special bottle design will appeal to fans of the series, with a label depicting several of the show’s characters and props alongside Johnnie Walker’s signature Striding Man branding. Eagle-eyed whisky lovers will also notice a few ‘hidden messages’, including the last words of one of the show’s main characters, that are revealed by placing the bottle under a UV light. “Like many fans around the globe, we’ve been gripped by the action unfolding from the fictional underworld of La Casa de Papel,” commented Julie Branham, Johnnie Walker’s global marketing director. “We’re delighted to be marking the climax of this series through this limited edition design. I’ll be watching the story unfold with a glass of Johnnie Walker in hand and a keepsake bottle to have forever.” It won’t be easy getting your hands on this one, however. For a start, just 150,000 bottles of Johnnie Walker Red Label La Casa De Papel Limited Edition Design will be released on 1 November, plus it’s only in select markets in Southern Europe and Latin America. Despite the fact the whisky sits at 40% ABV and retails for €13.49, you’ll probably see this one doing the rounds on auction markets in no time.
VIVIR Tequila to the rescue with Café VS launch
Remember but two short weeks ago when it was revealed that the beloved Patron XO Cafe was being axed? All of us here in the UK (and at Master of Malt) were up in arms about it. But all hope is not lost – VIVIR to the rescue! Founded in 2019 (find out all about its inception in our blog post here), alongside its three core Tequilas, the brand has now announced that it’s plugging the coffee liqueur-shaped gap in the market with its own VIVIR Café VS. They swear it’s complete luck, as this toasty bottling has been in the pipeline for over two years. It’s made using VIVIR Blanco, and is naturally flavoured with locally-sourced Mexican coffee beans, as well as being sweetened with Piloncillo sugar, a raw form of pure cane sugar that is commonly used in Mexican cooking. We took it upon ourselves to taste it on behalf of the nation this week, and truly, it’s delicious. All that roasty, toasty, coffee bitterness is bolstered by red fruit, fresh agave, and very subtle woody sweetness, and we even detected an intriguing hint of Frazzles somewhere underneath. Needless to say, it’s quite spectacular in an Espresso Martini, but we also tried it in a coffee- and Tequila-based twist on a Negroni. It’s selling for £27, and will be arriving at MoM Towers very soon…
And finally… Want to get hitched in a Busch Light-themed wedding dress?
It’s every little girl’s dream to wear a Busch Light-themed wedding dress down the aisle on their big day, right? Well, it must be somebody’s, because the beer brand has teamed up with Dave’s Bridal to launch its own wedding formal wear, including a Busch Light-themed wedding dress. It costs US$789, which is about £575 and so cheaper than the average wedding gown, and comes in a tasteful (ahem) camouflaged design. Naturally, it was inspired by Busch Light’s Camo cans, available now as a limited edition. It sounds like the kind of advertisement you’d see on The Simpsons, but this is all very real, we’re afraid. Let’s just say a little prayer right now for the groom who buys their bride one of these thinking it will go down well.